Leyland not expecting Guillen to be ready

The Tigers’ winter caravan is off and running here at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, where the Mud Hens are holding their annual Fandemonium event. That includes an appearance from manager Jim Leyland, who talked a little bit about the team. Among the topics:

  • Carlos Guillen — “I don’t think he’s going to be ready to start the season,” Leyland said. “I don’t think [so], but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.” That doesn’t mean he doubts Guillen is going to be healthy. But Leyland doesn’t expect Guillen far enough long in Spring Training to open the season at second base. “We’re hoping he’s going to be part of the mix at second. He could be a big key for us. He won’t be until he’s ready to play, obviously. But out of all the positions, that’s one where we’re pretty comfortable because we’re pretty solid. I mean, we’ve got some choices — Rhymes, Worth, Sizemore, Santiago. Raburn could play second if he had to. We’re pretty deep there, really.”
  • I followed up with some folks after Leyland’s remarks, and the impression I get is that nothing has changed in Guillen’s status since last month, when Tigers people sounded more optimistic. It sounds like the Tigers are proceeding cautiously because of the nature of the surgery and how rare it is in baseball. If Guillen does have a setback or falls a little bit behind schedule and can’t play in games until the final week or two of Spring Training, they don’t want to be caught unprepared.
  • Third catcher — Leyland wants to make sure somebody is ready for that role, because it’s going to come up late in close games when Alex Avila is on base and Leyland debates whether to use a pinch-runner. To that end, Leyland said Don Kelly is going to catch a little bit this Spring Training. They don’t want him to play much, but they also want him as a little more than an emergency catcher.
  • Pitching coach Rick Knapp said Joel Zumaya is already throwing in Lakeland, has been for a little while, and is on track. Again, the Tigers are being cautious, but they can’t hide their optimism. “I’m praying to God [he] holds up, because he could be a huge weapon for us.”
  • Leyland doesn’t know yet who will hit second in the order. It partly depends on who ends up starting at second base to begin the season. Leyland did say he would like a little bit of speed there.
  • Casper Wells said his left knee, the one he tweaked near the end of his winter ball season in the Dominican, is fine. He should be ready to go.

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